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Division Two of Irish Hockey League to be launched in 2018/19

Starting in the 2018/19 season, there will be two divisions of All Ireland hockey.

The top division of Irish hockey moved all-island on a full-season basis back in 2015 and that move will now be followed by the launch of an IHL Division 2.

That will run alongside the provincial leagues. Rather than pulling more clubs out of the Ulster Premier League, clubs will in addition participate in All-Ireland matches interspersed throughout the provincial season. Ulster's top three clubs in both the men's and ladies competitions will qualify for the following season's IHL Division 2.

The competition will be split into two pools of four teams (men) and five teams (women), with clubs playing each other home and away. The top two teams in each pool qualify for the IHL Division 2 finals. The winner of the finals will be promoted to the EYHL and the runner-up will play against the EYHL's ninth placed side for promotion.

The move comes after the IHL Working Group launched a Review Panel to discuss points raise at an Open Forum. The panel included representatives from branches, clubs and the working group itself.

The panel's recommendation of an IHL Division 2 to help stop the widening of the gap between EYHL and provincial league clubs, beginning in the 2018/19 season, was approved by the Hockey Ireland Board.

Inez Cooper, Chair of the IHL WG said: "The Panel discussed a number of issues identified from the Open Forum, especially in relation to addressing potential growth in the gap between EYHL and provincial league club sides. The Panel was of the view that the introduction of a Division 2 would address the top concerns, namely, better preparation of provincial league clubs for playing in EYHL through exposure to sufficient level of competitive matches throughout the season; help ambitious clubs with player retention / migration as well as help in finding new sponsors who want to invest in their growth story and finally to help demoted clubs bridge back into the EYHL quickly."

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